magic bookThere’s a piece of advice that I’ve seen floating around the internet that claims that you can create a marketable book in three hours or less. While the claim doesn’t explicitly say that the quality of such a book would get it on the New York Times’ bestseller list, it implies that the book might actually sell. While yes, it is technically possible to create a book in three hours or less, I question the value of such a product and in the three hours spent creating it.

So how does one write a book in three hours? Well all you need to do is speak into a microphone for three hours. That microphone can be attached to a recording device (including a computer with a recording program) so that you can ship off a tape, CD or MP3 file to a transcription service that will provide you with the text of what you have spoken. Or you could use a speech recognition product such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking
(I did an internship at Dragon years ago) that will do the transcription for you.

So your three hours are up and what do you have? The next bestseller? Again, what you’ve got is a text file that may be broken into paragraphs — a mere transcript of your speech. While I see a value in sharing speech transcriptions and recordings , I don’t see how it can be successfully turned into a book without a significant amount of work. In addition to recording your speech, you still need to do the following:

  • Write and organize your speech.
  • Fact check your speech if applicable.
  • Practice your speech to limit errors while speaking (or reading out loud).
  • Listening to the recording to make sure you didn’t misspeak, misquote or make any other errors.
  • Ensuring that your recording is of good enough quality so that it can be transcribed.

This is of course, just the tip of the iceberg. After all of this is done and you have a transcript in hand, you’ll still just have text and text doesn’t make a book (even an ebook). You’ll still need to do some (or all) of the following:

  • Add bullets, graphics, figures etc….
  • Create chapters, headings, a table of contents, etc….
  • Get an ISBN number and barcode if you plan to sell it online or in stores.
  • Select a cover design.
  • Add footnotes and other references.
  • Add bold, italics and other text formatting.

Now you can certainly outsource many of these steps, or incorporate them into your recording by saying things like “Begin Bold Chapter one a great start end Bold” but it’s not fool proof. You’ll also have to do a significant amount of editing because speeches project emotion differently than the written word. It’s easier to take a book and turn it into a speech than it is to do the reverse.

So while I like the idea of using speech transcriptions to help you create a book, I think the three hour promise grossly underestimates the actual time involved. Transcribing a speech will help you save time — especially if the speech has already been written — but you’re probably looking realistically at about 60 to 100 hours of work to complete a book. Some types of books such as made up stories and recounts of events in our lives work especially well with this type of format. A self help book or technical manual will take a bit longer. But whatever you plan on writing, give it a try — it’ll take more than three hours but it will get you moving faster.

Can You Really Write a Book in Three Hours?
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